Accommodating what employees value in a post-pandemic world will stand businesses in good stead

Dougie Lawson

Dougie Lawson

It has been two years since the first lockdown, one of the biggest game-changers in property and the world of work. We now have a whole new lexicon when it comes to property and the office, including hybrid working, rural working, garden office and so on.

So, what about businesses wanting to tempt employees back, even if only for a few days a week? And what of landlords wanting to retain value in their post-pandemic office assets?

As we well know, working at home during the peak of the pandemic caused businesses to rapidly adapt and discover that many parts of their operations could carry on as normal outside the office, with a few tweaks and the right infrastructure in place. Perhaps it accelerated their investment in technology as well as their thinking about presenteeism and standard working patterns?

We now have a group of people keen to go back to the office in some form because they cannot work at home for a number of reasons, such as children, lack of desk space and lack of boundaries.

But we also have a growing number of people who no longer want to commute every day, those who value the flexibility of both office and home working, and those who would prefer to work from home in the long term.

Balancing act

How can businesses accommodate these latter groups when they have existing leases? And how can landlords keep them in the space once those leases run out? Moreover, what do people want and value in an office space in today’s world?

From 25 years’ experience of running Turkey Mill business park in Kent (pictured), the way to entice businesses back to the office is by creating an environment they generally enjoy and look forward to working in.

Our green, open grounds provide ample opportunity for tenants to get outside, with many attributing better productivity and focus in the workplace to this. As a landlord, we take the upkeep of our gardens seriously; and as many of our tenants note the benefits of being outside during the working day, we have a team of onsite gardeners who keep the grounds maintained all year round.

Our site also has an abundance of space, which means tenants and businesses do not feel on top of one another, but are part of a business community nonetheless. The winning formula seems to be about balance.

Post-pandemic, mental wellbeing and the impact our actions have on the environment have also become key. With this in mind, we have made active efforts to enforce sustainable initiatives such as excellent air quality, energy efficiency and more recently introducing an electric bike for tenants to try out on their own commute.

As a landlord, we have had to learn to adapt to how tenants and employees view the office. It has become a choice rather than a necessity, and we must now actively create reasons for businesses to choose to have office space.

That space may increase or decrease at times, and it is important to be as flexible as possible in both directions. Speaking to other business park owners around the South East, it would appear they feel similarly: give people a reason to be back in the office.

Continue as before and the office, as an asset, will become surplus to requirements.

Dougie Lawson is estates manager at Turkey Mill